Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Euro pressure drove Liverpool to deliver: Brendan Rodgers

Big ask: Brendan Rodgers felt pressure to qualify for Europe

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits the club's history made regaining Champions League status a huge challenge.

The Reds exceeded expectations by running Manchester City close in the title race, but their primary objective was to secure a return to European football's elite for the first time since 2009.

While that was done with relative ease, Rodgers admits there was plenty of pressure on them to end their exile.

"I left pre-season at a good moment, finished with a real team spirit and at that point we were clear that we wanted to fight for a Champions League position," he said. "It was a huge challenge, purely because of the size and greatness of the club.

"It was five odd seasons since we had played at that level and the investment that goes in and what teams were spending to try to get in there, never mind stay in there, was obviously significant, so for us we knew it would be a challenge."

While their final finish was imperative, some of the performances the side put in were particularly significant and Liverpool's sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters believes it will signal the start of "golden era".

"They have had their best season for 24 years and my own belief is that it is the start of a golden era for the club," he said.

"They have established themselves as a team before the best and winning the league again will be just a matter of time."

Rodgers said once the transfer window closed last summer the squad were able to focus fully on their task, but with a World Cup adding an extra complication to the summer transfer window this time around, there are likely to be even more distractions.

While the list of names linked with a move to Liverpool continues to grow by the day, speculation over which players are likely to leave Anfield has already focused on centre-back Daniel Agger. He found his place under threat from Mamadou Sakho last campaign.

Earlier in the week the Denmark captain said he did not want to be number three (in the choice of centre-backs) and he speculated he had lost his place because Rodgers "doesn't think that I'm good enough".

Ahead of a friendly against Hungary, his national team boss Morten Olsen was asked about the defender.

"Of course he should be playing," he said. "Otherwise I believe we will have a frustrated and irritated captain. I hope he will make the right choice."

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